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A new patio is an exciting way to create a usable outdoor space. Patios can provide a robust and level surface which can act as an extension of the home.
They can provide the perfect places to relax and socialise with family and friends. However with so many paving choices on the market what is the best paving for patios? This is a common question and the answer really depends on your specific taste and situation.
In this article I will break down the elements which may affect your final decision. This will help you decide what paving is best for you. I will also approach this question in a more holistic sense.
In so doing I will identify 4 main paving types which I think is the best paving for patios today.
A good starting point when choosing your paving is what style you want. Do you want there to be a consistency in style to the interior design of the home?
Very often many households aim to have external paving which matches internal themes. This is especially so if the kitchen opens directly out onto a patio. In many cases the style of your garden will be dictated to by the paving material you choose.
If you prefer a contemporary theme you may want smooth materials with consistent tones and a uniformed sized paving unit.
Therefore the best paving for your new patio will match your existing or proposed garden style.
Normally households decide to install a patio without considering the wider garden design. It is always tempting to simply replace an old patio space with a new one.
However paving is typically the most expensive element of a new garden. Therefore it is worth also considering a whole garden re-modelling. In so doing, formulating a new garden design will help you in deciding which paving is best.
The best paving for you will be the one which best fits into your new garden design. The best way to formulate a new design is observing precedent images of well designed gardens.
This can help you to discover a design theme and paving material you like.
When choosing paving we can sometimes focus too much on the visual attributes of a single slab. It is important to remember that laid over a wide area paving can look very different.
Therefore it is important to consider visual texture when deciding the best material choice for you. Very often clients fall in love with a smooth, modern looking, paving only to find it looks bland when laid.
Visual texture and variation can be enhanced by surface texture, colours, jointing and laying pattern. Once again precedent images are the key to finding the very best paving for you.
A good place to find these is Google Images or Pinterest.
Durability is something which may not be on the average person’s radar. However the very best paving will be durable and hardwearing. This generally means either a natural stone of high density or a concrete paver of adequate thickness.
The best paving will be robust enough to resist the degrading forces of outdoor conditions. This includes acid rain, ground movement and freeze and thaw action. All paving sold on the market will be robust enough to resist such conditions.
However some materials are more robust than others. Durability not only ensures a minimal chance of future damage but also slow weathering over time.
This makes high, density, natural stone such as slate and granite a suitable choice. Non porous materials such as porcelain are also very favourable.
Much emphasis has been placed upon permeable surfaces in recent years. Surfaces such as gravel and resin bound aggregate allow storm water to soak slowly back into the ground. This reduces flash flooding and the polluting of natural watercourses.
However this does not necessarily mean paving must be permeable to prevent such issues. Impermeable paving is less likely to be subject to staining and degradation over time. Therefore it is sustainable in its own sense as it is unlikely to require replacing or repair.
In order to provide sustainable drainage storm water must simply be channelled into ecological drainage systems.
These generally include bioswales, seasonally flooding wetlands or retention ponds. Therefore the best paving for patios does not necessarily need to be permeable.
Sustainability is an ever important issue when considering any form of landscaping project. However there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation within this topic.
Firstly sustainable paving does not necessarily need to be quarried locally. Indeed shipping paving all the way from India is not sustainable but what did you have for dinner last night?
We already live in a world which can never sustainably fulfil its energy needs unless it goes back to medieval farming. Therefore in my opinion choose a material which is as robust as possible that you like.
Then make sure it is installed to such a high standard it will last 100 years. That is much more sustainable than building a new project every 25 years.
However if you really wish to use more local materials this is also an added benefit. The best paving for patios should always seek to be as sustainable as possible!
However this does not necessarily mean that paving from abroad is less sustainable. Natural stone generally comes from far away countries such as Brazil and India.
However they are much more sustainable and less polluting than manufactured concrete paving.
Budget is an interesting topic when it comes to paving. Naturally one would assume the most expensive the paving the better quality it is. However I find this to not necessarily be the case either.
Generally I find between £30-£50 per square metre will buy you good quality paving. When I search for much more expensive options I generally find no added benefit.
Many suppliers will tell you their product is superior, however at the end of the day it is just paving!
So the best paving does not have to be extremely expensive but do expect to pay between £30-50 a square metre.
Concrete paving covers a wide of paving products from precast concrete slabs to block paving.
These are made up of wet concrete mixed with aggregates, sealants and colour dyes. These are set into moulds to form a paving size of choice. The advantage of concrete paving is it can be moulded into any shape or colour.
However it has many disadvantages the largest being its colours will eventually fade. These cannot be formed into thin slabs as it will crack; this makes concrete paving heavy and cumbersome.
Natural stone paving is cut from quarried rock from various geological substrates. Typical examples of these include limestones, sandstones, granites and slates.
These come in a variety of colours and textures. Unlike concrete paving natural stone paving colours do not fade in the sun.
Due to their natural formation they are also easy to cut into thin, calibrated pavers around 20mm. This makes them light and easy to move around.
The disadvantage of natural stone is it can have natural impurities and fracture lines. However, on the whole, these are generally avoided during the quarrying process.
Natural stone generally has a better colour and texture than concrete paving. Unlike concrete paving natural paving does not utilise chemical formulations and emit as much CO2.
Therefore I would conclude natural stone is much better than concrete paving.
The best paving for patios
Taking on board everything that has been discussed there are some clear attributes of the best paving.
The best paving for patios should be affordable, durable, aesthetic, natural stone that can compliment many different design styles. I believe this narrows down the best paving into four popular types; Granite, Sandstone, Slate and Porcelain.
Granite paving is a popular choice in contemporary gardens with a recognisable mottled black and grey colour. This material is extremely dense allowing it to be cut and chiselled into a variety of shapes and finishes.
Sandstone paving is one of the most popular choices on the market today. Not only is it durable it comes in so many colours and has natural variation. One of the most common varieties is Indian sandstone which is very good value for money.
Slate is a metamorphic rock which naturally lends itself as the perfect paving material. Millions of years of geological compressive forces have gradually formed this dense material.
Slate is extremely dense and impervious to water penetration. Its classic black, grey, blue and green tones have made it a very popular paving material.
Porcelain is not natural stone in the traditional sense; however it is made from natural materials.
Clay, silica and flint particles are pressed into moulds and fired at extremely high temperatures. This bakes the materials hard with the silica forming a dense glaze to the surface.
This gives porcelain its tile like feel and impervious properties. This paving has a very refined look and popular in contemporary gardens.
The best paving for new patios will have colours and qualities to match your existing or proposed design theme. Considerations for the best paving for you will include colour, texture, style, sustainability and budget.
I feel that natural stone paving offers the best value as unlike concrete paving its colours do not fade. Its natural tones and shades always look better in contrast to manmade dyes which fade over time.
The best paving for patios is those which conform to popular colour choices. These include blacks, greys, creams, and buffs. Therefore I believe the 4 best paving choices for patios is Slate, Sandstone, Granite and Porcelain.
Thank you for reading out article on what is the best paving for patios. If you require paving services for your patio project contact us here. Alternatively if you are building your own project why not read our recommended equipment list or resources page here.
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Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.